A Term in Preview

Uni Updates

I’m one week into my second term of my English Literature degree and I think now is a good time to preview the upcoming term. I am taking the same subjects as last term; English Literature, Scottish Literature and Celtic Civilisations. I’m excited about each one of these for different reasons so without further ado…

 

English Literature

The title of this module is called ‘Writing and the Self’. The first lecture was a very dull and consisted of the lecturer simply reading a long list of quotes from the handout he told us to print off. There was some other rambling, from which I caught enough key phrases from to be able to identify that I would be working with concepts I already covered in my previous degree. The reading for this term is interesting and includes Jane Eyre, Hamlet and Orlando. I’ve read Jane Eyre before and finished Hamlet which was much more enjoyable than Much Ado about Nothing. So I am doing well with my reading this term; it does help that the first three weeks have involved a lot of poetry 🙂

 

Scottish Literature

This term the course focuses on post world war Scottish literature and the idea of what national identity means at this point. Like English Literature this has begun with poetry but the later texts open up into a variety of genres. I’m quite interested in reading these as they are set in a different atmosphere as the texts last term which were primarily set in the 18th and 19th Centuries. I’m currently making my way through Lanark which is strange to say the least, but it certainly keeps me interested.

 

Celtic Civilisations

We’re finally on to the actual Celts! Term one was all about setting the scene historically and that meant some Greeks, Romans, Romans and more Romans. I’m not a huge fan of the Romans so last term got a bit repetitive. We’re currently working with evidence actually written by the Celts themselves and not by outsiders, so this is after the fall of the Roman Empire and will include the Vikings. It will also include looking at Saints and the Christianisation of the Celtic people which from a moral point of view makes me wince. From an academic point of view I’m fascinated.

Time to dust this thing off

Uni Updates

It has been a rocky few months which ended with me missing my exams and being referred to see an ear, nose and throat surgeon. Yes, an actual surgeon. The only time I have ever had surgery was when I was seven and at that point in medical history doctors were obsessed with removing tonsils from kids to stop tonsillitis. What they didn’t foresee is that years later these children would have various throat infections and viruses in place of the tonsillitis. Fortunately I seem to have ‘grown out of’ (a favorite catchphrase of every doctor I had during my childhood and teens) those and moved onto sinusitis aka a sinus infection. For those who aren’t familiar with this part of our anatomy (or aren’t a native English speaker) they are nasal cavities in your forehead and cheeks. Most of the time they just sit there doing their job, becoming a little bunged up with a cold or flu, but generally not doing much. That is until you get an infection and anyone who has had sinusitis will tell you that the pain is excruciating.

For over four years I’ve been having these lovely buggers every three to four months, until a few months ago right about the time I stopped posting here. The frequency stepped up from a few months to having one a month a part. Or maybe it was the same infection, who knows? The second time was much more aggressive and did not respond to antibiotics which isn’t unusual. It just wouldn’t budge for well over a month and during that time I was due to sit my exams. I had to call in sick and I believe I will be resitting them in August which actually works out quite nicely. My second term starts this week and the exams for this term are April/May, so that leaves me plenty of time to revise for my resits. It actually gives me more time to revise considering I had essays due in and then the holidays this time.

I am hoping for this term to go better in some ways than last term. I don’t want to rule last term as being terrible because it wasn’t. I met some wonderful people and succeeded in reaching many of my goals. I also have to admit that I went into this degree with way too much confidence in my abilities. Some confidence is healthy, however, I forgot to factor in one important thing; there is a very big difference between a History of Art degree and an English Literature degree. They are two difference disciplines and as such require two separate methods of writing essays. While I managed to do exceedingly well in my first essay for Celtic Civilisations, I did a lot worse in my English and Scottish Literature assessments. Primarily because Celtic Civ is much more like History of Art when it comes to essays. So instead of wallowing in self pity I have gotten some books from the University Library and going back to the basics, intending to improve my grades this term. This degree is proving more of a challenge but not an impossible one and well within my abilities.

I had intended to have read at least one book/play for both Literature subjects, however, that idea of course has yet to be put into practise. I’ve lucked out somewhat as both of these courses are starting with poetry straight away. The first thing I need to read is Hamlet which shouldn’t take took long to read. I’ve started re-reading Jane Eyre as well so I shouldn’t fall too far behind. If I can keep up with the reading this term I’ll be happy. I have to rely on ebooks this time though rather than my usual paperback as it seems that carrying too many books around was causing me more pain. I dislike this change as I love to have an actual book to hold and annotate, I can’t draw all over ebooks.

I realised last term that I was handling this blog with kid gloves, worried of being seen as out spoken or annoying. I should have realised that was not the case and therefore expect more entries on various topics rather than just my adventures at university.

Blizzcon Thoughts

Blizzon Thoughts

I know there will be a few people reading this entry (and having seen my comments on facebook regarding Blizzcon) that may have absolutely no idea what I am talking about. So before I begin a small breakdown of what Blizzcon is and why it is so important. It is a yearly convention held in California by the video game company Blizzard Entertainment. This company is responsible for games such as World of Warcraft, Warcraft 1-3, Diable 1 & 2, and Starcraft 1 & 2. The first of these I have been playing since it came out in February 2005 and is a passion of mine. It was the first game I started to play, however, other games I’ve played just don’t quite live up to WoW. I love the game play, the art, the worlds, the quests and especially the Lore.

 

Blizzcon is where the company announces it’s new games and expansions, along with hosting several Question & Answer pannels where lore geeks like me can learn answers to questions that have been bugging us for years. For example, I was desperate for someone to ask whether Moonkins would be getting their own different forms like druid cats and bears. Last year no one asked it, however, someone finally did! As usual many questions got the answer of ‘we’re working on it’, which doesn’t bother me as I understand from being a writer that you cannot throw every idea out to the public straight away. People seem forget how much the Blizzard team love the characters and storylines; they are their babies. It must be killing them not to be able to tell us all the awesomeness that they have planned for us!

 

This year’s Blizzcon was no exception and as many WoW players expected the new WoW expansion was announced; Mists of Pandaria. I won’t lie; I was extremely cynical about this since the rumor mill began suggesting that Pandarians would indeed be the next race. On the first glance they do look very cute and very anime, which is something I really dislike. The more I watched, via the virtual ticket on our awesome HD 24 inch TV screen, the more I recognised just how much detail the Blizzard developers have gone into. I stopped covering my eyes in disgust and starting watching the trailers in awe. My dad is a major Japanese enthusiast, especially when it comes to their history, culture, religion and martial arts, so I can see from watching the trailers that Blizzard have incorporated a lot of that culture into the new race.It’s a beautiful and spiritual culture and I wish people would give it a chance instead of whining – the favorite pastime of the majority of WoW players it seems.

 

One only needs to browse the forums to see the outrage and to be honest quite ridiculous  arguments for why this expansion is going to ‘suck’ or is a ‘joke’. There have been quite a few Kung Fu panda jokes which is a joke in itself considering the Pandarians existed in the WoW universe years ago in Warcraft III. Once again as a lore geek and a history geek I find myself chaffing at the bit to yell at people who quite evidently are looking at the physical evidence (art, trailers, gameplay) and being entirely oblivious to the culture it is  based on. The age old issue of the Western world being so ignorant of the rest of the world. I won’t get into that too much more and instead will comment on one particularly argument that I read; ‘there’s no main enemy so it’s going to suck’. Different doesn’t always mean bad! Blizzard have given us such amazing storylines and game play previously, so can’t we just trust them to do this well too?

 

Enough of the ranting, what are my thoughts on the new expansion I hear you wondering. I am excited by it, I really like the idea of a melee healer and am curious to see if they heal via a kind of pressure point/Tai Chi healing method. i.e. you heal by ‘melee-ing’ a friendly target. It’s really interesting to see a cross-faction race and the implications of what we, the players, have brought with us to their previously tranquil world. Plus a world on top of a tortoise? That’s just awesome. The talent changes are awesome, especially for someone who long ago grew sick and tired of being told by people what the right spec or right talents were. I like the way they have set out these changes by asking players to pick between three options that do the same thing in different way. It is much more customizable on one’s own play style. As my main is a priest I was particularly happy with the additions to their talents, and the new spells. There was an awesome part in one of the Q&A’s where the developers pretty much admitted that they gave priest life grip knowing we could use it to kill our GMs during raids. At that point I doubt I was the only priest that cackled with glee knowing we now have two ways to do it. My poor GM James will soon stop inviting priests to the raids I think 😛

 

The other big news that I loved was the announcement by Mike Morheim regarding the annual pass. Yes it’s a brilliant marketing strategy by the company in the face of several new popular RPGs being released (Star Wars and Guild Wars 2), however, they are also giving something back to their devoted players in a major way. They are giving us an awesome mount and another game free, and on top of that beta access to Mists of Pandaria. The catch? You need to devote yourself to a 12 month contract to play WoW, which you pay monthly. Let’s be honest; if you’re a raider (and not sick of the game) you were probably going to play for 12 months – and longer. So essentially myself and my fiance Chris are getting loads of bonuses for the same price, all we have to do is click something different under payment.

 

The last thing to talk about is the pet battle system… which we all know is very close to being a rip-off of Pokemon. Only the fact that they have announced it tells us that they’re already cleared any copyright issues. You can level and fight with your companion pets, and they will finally be account bound. You can also name them and find new pets in different settings i.e. in zone A at night and only if it’s raining. That sounds like so much fun. I’ve never been a huge fan of pokemon because it was a stand alone game and it was a style I disliked. So WoW pokemon? I’m up for that!

Catch up week

Memories

Previously Reading Week, which is basically a week’s holiday from University, has been only seen as a holiday rather than a time to get reading done. This year? I have loads to do. I have so much reading to do; starting with Finishing Waverly by Walter Scott, then Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and then onto Jekyll and Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. I also have a context essay due on the 31st and another on the 3rd November. So yes, I am a busy bee!

 

It’s Blizzcon this weekend, which means I am relaxing and is a nice pat on the back for myself as Thursday I handed in my first essay. It was strange writing an assessed essay after so long, and I’m quite grateful that it actually was Celtic Civ instead of one of the Lits. I’m used to writing in the academic style for that, where as I seem to be struggling to write in an academic literature way. This week I got both of my assignments back for English and Scottish Lit and I didn’t do too good in the Poetry analysis. I’m not surprised at that as I did struggle with it quite a bit. In comparison though my short story analysis for Scottish Lit went much better. It was difficult to remember not to let them colour my view of my essay writing skills and in the end I think I was fairly comfortable with the resulting essay. Just need to wait and see! I did so much better at managing my time as well and was finished by 5pm the following evening rather than struggling until 10pm or later as I have done before.

 

I just hope I can keep that up this week and get as much work done as possible. It’s nice to have Blizzcon as a way of rewarding myself, although it does mean I am in danger of forgetting work.

Disabled, yes I am

Spoonies R Us

A strange title you might be thinking, it isn’t as random as it appears. I had an appointment with the University’s disability team, and during it we were discussing my time at Leeds University. I recalled that at that time I had not come to recognise myself as disabled yet, I was still learning about the full extent of my hypermobility syndrome and being diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The use of the term ‘disabled’ has been widely criticised as it makes people feel as though they are being told they are unable to do the same as an ‘able’ person. I personally don’t feel that way as my situation does mean I am unable to do the same things everyone else can do. Walking and standing for long periods of times have always been an issue, however, after breaking my wrist last winter, it has become exceedingly painful and uncomfortable to write. I was fortunate to be able to use money from my birthday to purchase a net book, so that has helped a lot in lectures and seminars. I now don’t have to sit and just listen when my right wrist is acting up.

 

It isn’t an easy thing to admit during one’s early to mid twenties that you have a disability, and I’m sure it’s likewise not comfortable for those around me to think of it. I did consider not writing this entry, however, there were several compelling arguments against that course of action. Namely that it would not leave my thoughts, and that I have never been one who felt that I should be ashamed of my health. I think almost everyone I have spoken to for more than 10 minutes at University knows about at least one of my conditions. Some probably think I am seeking sympathy or to be seen as ‘special’. I hope that most recognise that it is just such a major part of my everyday life that it is impossible for me not to mention it. As I write this I am overhearing a gamer discussing his own sleep disorder and apologising for letting others know about it in his you tube video. That to me is just wrong, most chronic health conditions are not someone’s fault and we should not be made to feel like we are boring, upsetting or burdening people about our problems, nor that we only mention them to garner attention. Attention isn’t the aim; understanding and support is, so I hope that at least one person reading this will take that thought away with them.

 

I never really considered just how many provisions a University could make for a disabled student. It seems that only at a University level that the education system is prepared to handle people like me who are never feeling well, who miss lectures and classes, and who have trouble doing simple activities like gathering books from the library. All through my school life I was ‘in trouble’ for missing school not because I was skipping school but because I was ill. I never met the ‘standards’ set by the government, and if I have one aim as a teacher for the future it is to get some support for students like myself. A parent should not have to argue with a school teacher about their child being absent from school because they were in hospital! At Glasgow University this problem has a very simple solution; the disability team just ticks a box on a piece of paper that says ‘flexible attendance’. This doesn’t mean I can skip classes whenever the mood strikes; it means that I won’t be interrogated or have to constantly provide medical evidence. I should point out that medical evidence from your doctor is a requirement, so they do have measures in place to stop the average lazy student from abusing the system.

 

I almost wept with relief when I found this out. Attendance has always been a problem for me throughout education, and University is stressful enough without having to worry about something you cannot control. I knew that I could get extra time for exams, I did not realise that I would be able to use a computer for exams. The University library has a special computer section dedicated for students with disabilities to be able to take their exams. As Julia, the lady I spoke with said; they want us to be as relaxed as possible when we do our exams, not worrying about hands cramping up and being in pain. It helped immensely that she actually knew about hypermobility syndrome, and apparently there are several other sufferers of it at Glasgow University. So she had the knowledge there to help me in the best possible ways. The other ‘service’ provided was one for the library where I can contact the library in advance and ask them to collect books for me to pick up. So on days I’m having a really bad pain day, or I’m too tired to trek around the library which is 12 floors tall, I can use that.

 

All these solutions are so very simple. All it took was for people to speak and others to listen.

I will leave this entry here and follow up with an update about my academics over the next few days.